Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Affirmative Action in US appears close to elimination

Affirmative action policies describe many policies aimed at a historically socio-politically non-dominant group with various missions. The non-dominant group in the United States of America includes the minorities, women, and all racial groups. Among its sole objectives according to Sally Coleman Selden (1999) it can be conclude that among the main thing are to promote access to education, employment, or housing among certain designated groups, to redress the effects of past discrimination, to encourage public institutions to be more representative of the population and to enhance racial, ethnic, gender, or other diversity.[1]

Based on the objectives of the affirmative action policies, the American were supporting these idea when the federal government of the United States of America renewed its century old written commitment to removing the barriers to equal opportunity created by slavery, segregation, and discrimination that had hampered Americans of African descent for nearly four centuries. In 1965 the American government promised black Americans a better America; free from the barriers of discrimination that had denied them equal access to education, employment, housing, political participation, and the many other rights and privileges that white Americans enjoyed (F. Michael Higginbotham, 1999). [2]

Affirmative action policies has been implemented in many fields including in the employment, judiciary system, military, higher education system, the nation’s health, the health care workforce and list goes on. It is an objective of most governments to ensure public institutions, are open and accessible to a broad and diverse array of individuals, including individuals of all races and ethnicities. The government believed by ensuring diversity, accessibility and opportunity are government's responsibility to its citizens.[3]

History of the policies and it progress

It is important to note that the affirmative action policy in the United States of the America has been supported by all presidents since it first being implemented during 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. According to Shirley J. Wilcher (2003) it is first being introduced when President John F. Kennedy used affirmative action by instructing federal contractors to take "affirmative action to ensure that applicants are treated equally without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." These policies followed by President Lyndon B. Johnson that become a real supporter of the affirmative action, he requires all government contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to expand job opportunities for minorities including for women.

President Richard M. Nixon also continues the policies by authorizing flexible goals and timetables to correct "underutilization" of minorities by federal contractors. He then revised the order by including women in it. A few years later in 1973 the Nixon administration issued "Memorandum-Permissible Goals and Timetables in State and Local Government Employment Practices," distinguishing between proper goals and timetables and impermissible quotas. The policies continue until the time of President Bill Clinton declared his support for affirmative action programs by announcing the Administration's policy of "Mend it, don't end it."[4]

To make a long story short, the policies are being implemented until now. It just that interesting to note that all presidents support these policies until the time of President Bill Clinton that he tries to improved the policies but not to end it. The reason may due to some of the problems that occur during the time of it being implemented. This happened around the late 90’s when many lawsuits were filed regarding the use of affirmative action policies. But many cases filed were regarding the admission into the higher education.

All the cases make clear that the Constitutional Court will face a difficult task in evaluating whether affirmative action programs conflict with constitutional principles of equality. While some guidelines, such as the term "equality" will be interpreted broadly and only unreasonable racial differentiation will be deemed to be "unfair discrimination", have been implicated by the Constitutional Court's examination of equality provisions in the Interim Constitution, these guidelines do not reconcile the conflict between the concept of equality and the notion of affirmative action (F. Michael Higginbotham, 1999).

Presidential candidates views on affirmative action policies

Besides looking at the history of the affirmative action’s programs, it is also important to analyze the future of the policies from the view of the presidential candidates of the America’s election 2008. Among all candidates, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama are being highlighted much by the media for their chance on winning the post.

Regarding the affirmative action programs, Sen. John McCain waded into seemingly dangerous waters recently, endorsing a proposed Arizona ballot measure to end race- and gender-based affirmative action in the state. Though McCain's reversal might give minorities and women pause, Sen. Barack Obama hasn't exactly carried the affirmative-action torch (Young, Y. 2008).

Plus Sen. Barack Obama once said "Affirmative action is not going to be the long-term solution to the problems of race in America because, frankly, if you've got 50% of African-American or Latino kids dropping out of high school, it doesn't really matter what you do in terms of affirmative action. Those kids are not getting in to college."[5] In addition last year Obama mentioned to National Public Radio that, "Affirmative action is an important tool, although a limited tool.”[6] The statement was being criticize by Yolanda Young (2008) because Obama sidesteps the fact that affirmative action was intended not to solve racial problems, but to achieve racial equality.

However, Obama hold the same views as President Bill Clinton when he claims that he will support affirmative action “when properly structured”. In contrast, McCain choose to end race- and gender-based affirmative action in the state when he proposed amendment to the Arizona Constitution that would ban "preferential treatment" on the basis of "race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.”[7]


The debates in the United States over affirmative action have been controversial, and for some even divisive, most Americans of good will on both sides of the argument claim that they wish to create a society that truly affords equal opportunity to all. So in the final analysis, the question becomes what methods will facilitate such a societal transformation. Some opponents of affirmative action say simply ending discriminatory laws will do the trick. Supporters of affirmative action say that more must be done. The impact of centuries of discrimination will take more to eliminate than mere eradication of discriminatory laws. These members of groups which have suffered must be compensated for the harm done to them. They must be put where they would have been if not for the wrongful treatment.

Affirmative action will help to right the wrongs. Nevertheless, while it will take much longer, equal opportunity can be created without affirmative action. With it, however, the harm imposed on generations of black South Africans simply because of their color may be corrected more swiftly and with less economic and social disruption than other more severe methods.

The choice has already been made in the United States. Opposition to affirmative action by the courts, legislatures, and political leaders resulted in its limited implementation. With its broad and dynamic implementation who knows how much more progress could have been achieved. Yet, despite its positive impact, affirmative action in the United States appears close to elimination.[8]
[1] Selden, S. C. (1999). A Solution in Search of a Problem? Discrimination,Affirmative Action, and the New Public Service. Retrieved October 6, 2008, from custom/staticcontent/t2pdownloads/KelloughCommentary.htm
[2] Higginbotham, F. M. (1999). Affirmative action in the United States and South Africa: Lesson from the other side. Temple International and Comparative Law Journal. Retrieved October 6, 2008, from Lexis Nexis Academic Universe/General News.
[3] Richardson, L. A. (1998). What Is the Constitutional Status of Affirmative Action?: Reading Tea Leaves, in ABA Focus on Law Studies, Spring 1998, Volume XIII Number 2.
[4] Wilcher, S. J. (August 7, 2003). The History of Affirmative Action Policies. Abstract retrieved October 6, 2008 from
[5]Young, Y. (2008, August 15). Obama's fumble on affirmative action. USA TODAY, pp. 12A. Retrieved October 6, 2008, from Lexis Nexis Academic Universe/General News.
[6]Babington, C. (2008, June 28). Might Obama's success undercut affirmative action?. USA TODAY. Retrived October 6, 2008, from
[7]Jakson, D. (2008, July 27). McCain sides with ban affirmative action. USA TODAY, Retrieved October 6, 2008, from
[8] Higginbotham, F. M. (1999). Affirmative action in the United States and South Africa: Lesson from the other side. Temple International and Comparative Law Journal. Retrieved October 6, 2008, from Lexis Nexis Academic Universe/General News.

Ibn Yusof
11.17 a.m
16 October 2008 / 16 Syawal 1429

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